Kristin Davis is best known for her role as the ever-hopeful Charlotte York in Sex and the City but on Wednesday the actor was in Canberra to meet with government officials as part of her role as a UN human rights supporter.
In an interview with ABC’s Virginia Haussegger, Davis, a UNHCR ambassador, perfectly summed up the stark reality of the global refugee crisis:
“There are 60 million displaced people in the world -- 83 percent of which are women and children,” Davis said.
That’s 49 million desperate women and children fleeing their country because their homes are no longer safe.
Davis said for this reason we should not be afraid of refugees but we should “be afraid for them.”
It comes after the High Court of Australia dismissed an application challenging Australia’s offshore detention regime, the effect of which means the government can send 267 asylum seekers including 37 babies back to the Pacific island of Nauru.
At a time when fears of global security are weighed against the millions of families, women and children risking their lives in order to seek refuge, her comments are poignant but also, incredibly important.
“Refugee people are at greater risk for a number of things but one of the really frightening things is sexual violence,” Davis said.
“Not only are these people forced to flee their home because of violence and then they are on the road without protection, but they are subject to horrible things that I won’t even recount for you,” Davis said.
Studies show during times of violent conflict, levels of rape and sexual assault increase as gender-based violence is used as a military tactic.
Women and young girls in war torn countries are almost always the victims. They are also far more vulnerable given security and protection systems often fail in times of conflict.
Davis also weighed in on Australia’s response to the global refugee crisis saying that we are a “major player” in our humanitarian efforts in global terms.
Davis said we should be proud of our country’s global efforts particularly in places like Congo and Uganda where Australian charities, individuals and NGOs are integral in supporting women in conflict and livelihood building.
However she said there was a “marked difference” between our country’s global engagement with refugees and what was happening on the ground -- but that it was not what the world sees from Australia.
“It’s unfortunate for me personally. It’s always really sad to hear that there are children who need medical care,” Davis said.
“Obviously it’s a problem in a crisis but I do feel like the people are speaking out here and hopefully there will be an improvement in the situation,” Davis said.
Her comments come at a time when Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, particularly in children, is being widely criticised.